Elections 2019: are the youngest voters thinking differently from everyone else?

Low turnout of young people at elections has been problematic in the past. In 2017 The Guardian wrote that since 2005 youth turnout at UK general election had hovered around the 40% mark. Reasons discussed include distrust towards elites and politicians, as well as passion about an issue rather than a specific party. The article states that when meaningful change is at stake we can expect higher youth turnout.

As the date of 2019 general election is fast approaching, we attempted to measure young people’s intention to vote this time. We ran a single answer steer asking 501 18-24 year olds whether they would vote and obtained the results below:

An overwhelming 70% of young people stated that they would vote, while only 19% would definitely not vote. Interestingly, a quarter were uncertain who they would vote for, but would still vote.

Consumer brands have actively been trying to encourage young people to vote in the past, keen to be seen as relevant and socially engaged. For example, since 2017 cosmetics brand Lush has supported campaigning organisation Rize Up, which aims to convert young non-voters into voters.

For this election Rize Up has seen support from craft beer brewery Drygate, which designed a product dedicated to encouraging young people to vote. A pale ale called #RizeUpUK is sold online with profits from the sales donated to the campaign. In order to understand young people’s attitude towards this approach, we ran a Vykert steer, asking alcohol consumers aged 18 to 24, how appealing they find the product on a scale of -7 to +7:

The result above shows that young consumers are not hugely enthusiastic about the concept, with a median response of +1, meaning that half of the responses were higher and half lower than this value. While around 30% of respondents loved it, 16% hated it and around 27% were mostly neutral.

Having run this test we are sceptical about the effect of this form of consumer brand participation in convincing younger people to vote in this election. As mentioned above, these voters are likely to get involved where key issues are at stake. For the industry, current key issues are mostly related to the environment as well as consumers’ health and income.

The government gets involved in consumer affairs via regulation. The deposit return scheme on drinks, for example, addresses reduction of plastics use and recycling. The tax on sugary sweets is meant to fight obesity but is likely to cause price increases within the segment.

It is interesting whether younger voters think such issues need to be discussed within pre-election campaigns and how their view compares to the view of their older counterparts. We ran two multi-answer steers aiming to measure the relevance of five consumption related topics in the elections, one targeted at 18–24 year olds and the other at 25 years old and up. The graph presents a comparison of the results:

The results show that the youngest voters have quite a typical attitude to current consumption-related problems, if we measure this attitude by the judgement of the remaining, older voters. In both groups’ view reduction of plastics use is the most important issue, with around half of our panel expecting the political party of their choice to address it within its election manifesto. Overall, environmental issues take the top three places, while stability of food and drink prices, which directly affects people’s finances, is only considered as relevant by a third, and even fewer people in the group of 18-24 year olds.

These results highlight the consumption-related issues political parties need to address but can also serve as guidance for brands and retailers in their strategy of building a relevant and positive profile. Ultimately, government and industry should join forces in the common goal of resolving these issues, prioritising what voters see as most important, with age having little relevance in this judgement.